The Price of Passion is High but its Worth It
By Tonya Fitzpatrick, Esq.
How far would you go to pursue a career you're passionate about? What would you sacrifice? What risks would you take?
Like me, you have probably followed a conventional life path—good education, corporate tract, high paying job—only to realize that these things didn’t make you happy. Maybe you’ve tried to shake things up with different jobs, career paths, cities or you've acquired more degrees but each new change only lessened your disappointment temporarily. Perhaps you’ve known deep inside that there is something else you should be doing or, rather, something you want to be doing but you’ve been unable to identify what that ‘thing’ is and your search has resembled movement on a hamster wheel of uncertainty, doubt and frustration. So, how do you jump off of the spinning wheel without breaking your leg?
Fear not. Finding your passion is easier than you might think because you already know what it is. But pursuing a passion is not for the faint of heart. So, how important is finding your passion to you? For me, it was paramount and I jumped off a cliff to follow mine. The price I've paid has been steep and I've collected many bumps and bruises along the way but I'm happier for it. I know without a doubt that I am doing what I am meant to be doing and it all started with a simple life-altering question.
Let me tell you how and why I went from earning 6-figures as a lawyer and federal political appointee to making nothing as a travel journalist.
I wasn’t happy in the legal profession and I had a strong distaste for the political culture. I needed something more—something meaningful that spoke to my spirit. The money I earned did not fill the void I had in my life. So my insightful husband, Ian, asked me a question; and I’d like you to consider it because my answer changed my life. Ian asked, “What made you happy as a child that also makes you happy today?” My answer was easy and it came quickly: “Travel”.
When I was a little girl I always looked forward to visits from an aunt and uncle who lived in London. Their stories intrigued me and I was introduced to a world larger than Lansing, Michigan. I wanted so much to see this exciting city and, at 5 years old, I promised myself that I would move to London one day, and I did!! The adventures began when I was accepted into a Graduate program at the London School of Economics.
London was convenient to the rest of the world. It was easy to travel throughout Europe to visit friends. I remember waltzing in Vienna on New Years Eve and experiencing the “White Nights” during my extended time in St. Petersburg, Russia. I loved the cultural immersion experiences, the world history lessons and my explorations. The “travel bug” had bitten me hard and I felt alive!
One month after my epiphany, I left my job as a federal contractor and we opened a travel agency. The world is so full of surprising moments and we wanted to help others build memories and experience the educational and transformative opportunities that travel offers. Our ability to find unique and inexpensive authentic travel deals gained a lot of media attention. Suddenly, we were on local and national TV. Then a top radio station in Washington, DC invited us to create a travel show . We had no idea how to create or run a radio show but we went for it anyway.
About the same time, a call came from The White House offering me an appointment as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights Policy at the US Department of Education. That presented a dilemma. I had moved to DC to work in a White House administration but this meant making some hard choices and I wanted it all—the appointment, the agency and the radio show. But we were only two people.
Our travel agency was doing very well but we decided to close it and focus on the next exciting chapter. So World Footprints was born under a cloud of uncertainty but it was set on a strong foundation of social responsibility.
The price we've paid to follow our travel passion has been high. In addition to the loss of income and unconventional career path, we’ve also suffered injuries and illness because of fatigue and the stress that plagues all entrepreneurs. But we’re fueled by the work we do to break cultural barriers, to share our common humanity and to dispute the headlines that misrepresent people and places. Our messages are so powerful and they are critical in today’s divisive world because divisiveness threatens the world’s sustainability.
Additionally, the access we’ve had to people and the unique experiences we have enjoyed because of our press credentials has been priceless. I have photographed President Obama in the Oval Office and we’ve interviewed distinguished guests like the late Dr. Maya Angelou, Jack Hanna and Bobby Kennedy, Jr.
Exploring my interests and passions has allowed me to peer into the core of who I am and that is reflected in our foundation of social responsibility. The work we are doing with World Footprints has been validated through multiple journalism awards—a total of 13 international awards to date--and global recognition of our brand. Now our work is evolving into international speaking engagements and books. Because I took time to examine the things that have always been important to me, World Footprints has become my life’s purpose and this is an adventure I am blessed to share with my husband.